Smiley Smile, the album we got instead of SMiLE, was no picnic either. In fact, most consider it to be even more creepy and nightmarish. A minimalist, quirky, and intimate production, it's been likened to being stuck in a small room with some imaginative, if harmless, manics for thirty minutes. It even manages to make some of the SMiLE songs that were relatively innocuous dark and creepy...
"Fall Breaks and Back to Winter (W. Woodpecker Symphony)" is a strange, repetitive little soundscape that's quite gloomy and sinister on its own accord... and that's without knowing of its origins as the above-mentioned "Fire". Whatever those strange noises heard throughout the song are, they are surely not human...
"With Me Tonight" has an unsettlingly creepy organ undercurrent running through the entire song. It doesn't help that the organ begins right after an unidentified dark voice says "GOOD" (some have theorized it to be an archival recording of Murry Wilson, which does not help things). And then there's the song itself, which, what with its repetitiveness of variations of "you're with me tonight," borders on creepy obsession.
"Wind Chimes". It's unsettling enough that the song has a calm yet dark vibe, then once the last verse is about to end, there is a dissonant, unidentifiable noise that blares out of nowhere. Could count as a middle note nightmare. And the next section alternates between a heavenly falsetto and a dark bass that keeps on getting darker in pitch for every line...
"Wonderful", in its sparse arrangement of piano and sustained organ, benefits from a sinister vocal turn by Carl Wilson (making what was a song about losing consensual innocence feel like a song about being an unsuspecting target of prowling rapist, making it all the more creepy). The seemingly-jovial interlude heightens the listener's fears. The whole song feels so somber and gloomy. Not something to smile about.
"Whistle In" is a repetitive koan-like song that never resolves itself... it just goes on, and on, and on, and on about the importance of remembering the day and remembering the night, all night along... and then, nothing. What makes this worse is knowing about Brian's tendencies towards obsession with repetitive song ideas. It's a glimpse into his mind, people.
"The Old Master Painter" track begins with a brief string rendition of the aforementioned and then progresses to a haunting version of "You Are My Sunshine", which has its lyrics put to past tense (eg. "You were my sunshine...") and make it appear as a melancholic song about a person suffering from a heartbreak. It does not help that Dennis Wilson's vocals have been altered to have an echoey timbre. The song ends on a long descending note played on violins, as if it's meant to project the idea that the singer had either lost his mind or apparently committed suicide.
The instrumental outtake, "Look", opens with a stark and moody piano chord progression.
The original ending to "Surf's Up". Wordless vocals continue to go on until the song gradually fades.
A very notorious example would be the Fire section of The Elements Suite. While the piece was supposed to convey the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, Brian Wilson based the composition on his second LSD trip, wherein he experienced ego death and saw himself burning within the fires of hell. Roughly three minutes of this is purely screeching violins and organ jabs amidst the array of chaotic sound effects. If that is disturbing enough, what is more disturbing is the story of the recording itself. Unbeknownst to Wilson, at the time he was working on the Fire section, parts of neighboring Santa Monica were put to flames. Once word got to him, he was so convinced that the ordeal unleashed "bad vibrations", that he immediately halted work on this song. Eerie.
While on this subject, the second disc of the Good Vibrations box set features what is ostensibly a small snippet of "Heroes and Villains"... then wham! Out of nowhere, it's "Fire"! And what's worse, it remains unknown whether this was a printing mistake, or some sort of creepy mind game...
The repetitive "Heroes and Villains" harpsichord motif. An massive Ear Worm teetering uncomfortably on the edge between beauty and horror, it's been known to induce wildly different reactions to whomever is exposed to it. What's more, if you're listening to SMiLE for the first time, after hearing the first side you might expect it to appear out of nowhere at any time.
Around the time of its release in 2011, The SMiLE Sessions had an official sub-site as part of The Beach Boys' official website. The first thing you were greeted with when opening it? The "Heroes and Villains" riff (in its even darker outtake form, even), juxtaposed with the otherwise happy and cheerful album art, modified with some Uncanny Valley animation.
The cover art of Surf's Up, our page image. If you just glanced over it without seeing the title plaque, chances are your immediate assumption would be that this is some freakin' heavy metal right here. And without having heard the songs themselves, titles like "Don't Go Near the Water" and "'Til I Die" just sound creepy and ominous.
"'Til I Die" immediately begins with a droning synthesizer chord progression that plays throughout the whole song. The song's themes of despair, anguish, and (of course) death further brings chills down the listener's spine.
Summer In Paradise
All of Summer in Paradise qualifies. It's hard to believe that Mike Love could fathom such an album...but he did.
"My Solution", a Landlocked outtake. Nonsensical, drug-addled spoken word soliloquy about some kind of mad doctor(?) featuring dark, eerie synths equals some creepy shivers, for sure.note However, if you are now in need of some Nightmare Retardant, Brian later reworked it as a joyful anthem of recovery for his 1998 album, Imagination!
The Good Vibrations box set includes the Adult/Child outtake "It's Over Now". Problem is, due to some sort of error, the speed and thus pitch has been lowered, rendering Carl's voice unfamiliar and difficult to place. So now, out of nowhere you have this voice you don't entirely recognize singing this hopeless, bleak song about what sounds like the worst break-up ever... shades of blue and purple aren't gonna be the only things haunting you!
This picture◊. Brian doesn't look right... no, scratch that, actually he's looking RIGHT INTO YOUR SOUL.